Thursday, December 20, 2012
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State offers tips to help seniors prepare for winter

Seniors should get flu shots & get homes ready

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[December 20, 2012]  SPRINGFIELD -- As the area braces for the first snowstorm of the season, leading up to the official first day of winter, Illinois Department on Aging Director John K. Holton, Ph.D., reminds older adults and their families to get ready for the cold weather.

"There remains some uncertainty about the amount and duration of snowfall expected this week, but the fact we know it's coming is a great reminder to get prepared for the cold," said Holton. "Older adults, their families and caregivers who assist should make necessary arrangements to best deal with the cold and snowy weather. It's important to be prepared."

People age 50 and older are urged to get vaccinated against flu since they are considered at higher risk for influenza. The flu season runs through April and is predicted to be particularly strong this season.

Seniors should set their thermostats above 65 degrees. Older people are more susceptible to the cold. People who lower the thermostat to reduce heating bills risk developing hypothermia, a potentially fatal condition in which the body temperature drops dangerously low. Also at an increased risk are older people who take certain medications, drink alcohol, lack proper nutrition, or who have conditions such as arthritis, stroke, Alzheimer's disease and Parkinson's disease.

Have the furnace checked to make sure it is in good shape and heating ducts are properly ventilated. Proper ventilation is also a concern when using alternative heat from a fireplace, wood stove or space heater. If you use heating oil, make sure you have enough.

The state has a website that offers information about how to battle winter in Illinois and about available resources so seniors aren't left to make difficult decisions like whether to pay their heating bills or take their prescription medications this winter. For more information on how to keep warm, including tips to keep you safe and self-reliant in case of power failure, call 1-877-411-WARM or visit

Some other practical tips for seniors, in anticipation of the cold weather ahead, include:

  • Dressing in layers, both indoors and outdoors.

  • Keeping active: doing exercises and other activities indoors when you can't go out.

  • Eating well and drinking 10 glasses of water daily; stocking up on nonperishable food supplies, just in case.

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  • Keeping extra medications in the house or making arrangements to have your medications delivered.

  • Having your house winterized: caulking and weatherstripping doors and windows; insulating walls, attics and pipes near outer walls and crawl spaces that are susceptible to freezing.

  • Planning for someone else to shovel the snow. The strain from the cold and hard labor could cause a heart attack; sweating can lead to a chill and even hypothermia.

  • Making sure you and your family knows how to shut off the water supply in case pipes burst.

  • Preparing your vehicle for winter: checking wipers, tires, lights and fluid levels regularly; keeping a windshield scraper or small broom for ice and snow removal; maintaining at least a half-tank of gas during the winter season.

  • Planning long trips carefully and traveling by daylight with at least one other person.

  • Protecting against fire: buying a fire extinguisher; making sure space heaters are at least three feet from anything flammable; not overloading extension cords.

For more information about programs and services to assist older adults in Illinois and their caregivers, call the Department on Aging Senior HelpLine at 1-800-252-8966 or, for hearing-impaired use only, call TTY 1-888-206-1327.

[Text from Illinois Department on Aging file received from the Illinois Office of Communication and Information]

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